Sunday, December 06, 2020

How do we deal with COVID fatigue?

At this point, we're all a bit fatigued from this COVID thing, and the endlessly changing (and often mutually inconsistent) rules we are supposed to follow to mitigate its spread. 

The lockdown we followed here in Ontario worked reasonably well back in March and April, although our leaders were then seduced into opening up too quickly and too comprehensively over the summer. Rather than running it down to effectively zero like some other countries (e.g. South Korea, Taiwan, New Zealand, Australia, etc), we let up our guard and allowed it to come back stronger than ever. 

The second wave lockdown we are in now has been much less effective, and cases and deaths continue to creep up and up, in Ontario and most of the rest of Canada (and the world, for that matter). And I truly believe that this is more about rule fatigue than anything the virus is doing differently. So, how do we address this problem, given that vaccines are going to take some months to be distributed and to have some tangible effect on the spread of the virus?

A growing chorus of health experts and epidemiologists are of the opinion that there are just too many rules, and that some of those rules are just not useful rules. They argue that taking out some of the less effective rules - like outdoor mask mandates, one-way routes through stores, wiping down groceries and packages, or letting deliveries sit for 3 days - might ensure better observance of the more important ones, like avoiding the 3 C's: close contact, closed spaces, and crowds. In the same way, it is argued, reducing the quarantine period before or after travel from 14 days to 10, or even 7 (with testing), may actually be more beneficial if it encourages more compliance. As one consultant pointed out, a public health policy that people don't follow is, by definition, a failed policy.

I'm inclined to agree, with the important proviso that this also needs to be accompanied by a clear and concise communication of the rationale for the changes. This is not a Great Barrington Declaration-style let-it-all-run-rampant philosophy. This is a much more nuanced, reasoned and practical suggestion. Keep it simple, concentrate on the basics, and communicate (and preferably police).

No comments: